• Kristen Aguilar

Vaping: Trend or Tragedy?

If you look at your friend list right now - chances are - you can find at least one person you know that vapes, talks about vaping or has tried vaping in the past.

Vaping at a basic level is using a battery-operated device to inhale vapor contents through the mouth.

These devices can also be called e-cigs, vapes, hookahs, [vape] mods, ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems), dab pens (used for dabbing which in this case is not a dance) and vape pens and typically deliver nicotine, cannabis, oils and other chemicals in the form of an aerosol.

When you vape, as you exhale, smoke escapes through your nose and mouth at a rate that many find far more satisfying than traditional cigarettes.

Think huge puffs of big fluffy clouds versus a waft here and there.

The concept is not all that new.

In fact, e-cigarettes have been around for over a decade.

What is new is that recent years have seen an increase in e-cigarette trends amongst middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students and young adults.

This is despite the fact that such a trend is prohibited in the US for those under the age of 18.

I first came in contact with vaping while I was walking across my college campus.

Someone walking ahead of me unexpectedly blew this billowy current of purple smoke right into my walking space.

I had no choice but to walk through it.

I’ll admit I was curious even as I braced myself for the traditional smell of cigarette smoke.

I was expecting it to stink.

It smelled like grapes.

The kind of grape flavor you get from candy, soda or bath soap.

Before this moment, I had seen vaping from a distance.

From the big white and grey puffs of smoke wafting from car traffic on the highway to the drivers that inhale from devices that look like battery-operated nose trimmers.

But I wasn’t expecting it to smell so sweet.

Like Bath & Body Works on fleek.

Even though I was surprised it did not stink I was also very concerned that my health had just been put at risk.

The person vaping ended up walking into the nearest building, still puffing like a beautiful purple smokestack.

The very building I needed to be in.

Let’s just say I got out of that hallway pretty quick.

And no, it did not make me want to go get a hit.

Since then I have met college students and friends who sit on either side of the fence.

Some insist vaping is perfectly safe to use and that it poses no health risks.

Some insist it causes real health concerns.

Others think the legal age should be higher or lower than 18.

Even more have spent hours debating the issues amongst themselves in an effort to rationalize their choice to vape or not to vape.

The truth is millions of Americans use cigarettes (including many young adults).

While there is often a secondhand smoke health concern that prompts those who use traditional cigarettes to smoke outside of buildings, many e-cigarettes are finding their way inside of buildings, down hallways and into public restroom stalls.

And while cigarettes have been both popularized and villianized throughout history and popular culture…

Recently, it’s gotten much more complicated.

Nowadays we are seeing pod systems and e-cigarette devices that appear futuristic and colorful with sizes so small one could ghost smoke like a boss.

[Ghost smoking is smoking undetected indoors or in places where it is otherwise prohibited.]

And if you think the legal age limit of 18 years old deters young wannabe smokers from vaping, you are sadly mistaken.

But this vaping challenge is multifaceted and it is stirring up concern across the United States.

In August, the United States news broke reports of the 1st death from a lung illness that was linked to vaping.

The case came from the State of Illinois.

Since then, 5 other deaths have been confirmed in Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, Oregon and California.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also reporting a multistate outbreak of well over 450 cases of lung illnesses associated with using e-cigarette products.

While they have been tracking e-cigarrette use in recent years, this outbreak represents a new development and is under further investigation.

From a business and marketing perspective, this is a bit of a bad news bear.

Businesses stay solvent [AKA stay in business] if they can continue to sell their product or service.

No one wants their business to come under fire for selling a product or service that leads to injury or death.

At the same time, no one wants to watch their loved one sustain an injury or die over something they bought to consume recreationally.

What does this mean for us?

Well, in terms of seeking medical treatment, if you or a loved one gets sick or hospitalized you need to be upfront with your healthcare providers if you vape or have vaped in the past.

Doctors need to know your medical history to help treat you effectively and withholding health-related information can do more harm than good.

Here are 3 ways you can handle this topic at home or in a dorm:

1) If you vape, kick the habit or tell someone you trust.

If you are under 18, you should quit immediately.

Quitting is essential to remain compliant with many state or federal (USA) laws and by not vaping you give your young lungs a good start in life.

If you are over 18, quitting is a choice that you can choose to make.

If you choose not to quit for whatever reason, at the very least, let someone know you are vaping or that you have a history of vaping.

Heaven forbid that you run into any health complications.

Neither you nor I want you to suffer for any reason.

However, if you run into any health complications, someone else needs to know of your current or past vaping history so that they can have your back.

Medical personnel need to know about stuff like this quickly in order to help accurately diagnose you in an emergency setting and if you are unable to tell them yourself due to severe illness that person you trust may need to speak on your behalf.

I’d recommend a living relative like a parent or some other trusted adult.

2) If you have a friend who vapes, encourage them to quit to help avoid any negative risk associated with e-cigarette use.

Some people will choose to listen to you and some will ignore you.

You cannot control their actions but you can choose to accept them and love them anyway.

Discuss your concerns in love and then move forward.

(AKA don’t bring it up every single time you see them. That just causes problems.)

If they are unreceptive, keep an eye out for the need for medical attention.

Hours, days or even weeks after vaping, symptoms can include coughing, weight loss, fatigue, fever, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, possible seizures, vomiting and diarrhea.

Medical providers also warn of mood swings, breathing problems, lung injuries, damage to blood vessels, or dilation reduction in the femoral artery (which is an important supplier of blood to your thigh and leg).

While the range of symptoms can vary and the CDC is still conducting their investigation, look out for each other.

Being cool, popular, or fitting in is short lived in the scope of life and no amount of peer pressure is worth the risk of lying on your deathbed before your time.

3) If you have never smoked, please don’t start.

There are a thousand other things to do in this world.

Hobbies. Sports. Building a business. Ending world hunger. Curing cancer. Preventing war. Raising furry adorable flying squirrels.

Vaping does not have to be one of them.

Leaders in the fields of science and medicine are still trying to figure out all the effects surrounding vaping and vape-related products.

So far they have concluded that vaping and vape-related products are not safe for those under 18, youth and young adults, pregnant women or nursing mothers or other adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

Healthcare-providers are changing protocols and adjusting medical treatment recommendations to account for a history of e-cigarettes or vaping as they seek to treat patients with unexpected respiratory and other medical illnesses.

As time marches on we may start to see more conclusive answers to the following questions:

Why is this happening if this is supposed to be a “safer alternative”?

If these vapes are supposed to have less chemicals than traditional cigarettes, then why are we seeing young people get sick and die of respiratory issues linked to vaping?

What exactly are the chemicals in these vapes doing to human lungs?

A lot of the data has not fully been vetted by the FDA and a lot of opinions are swirling.

Recent speculation and predictions on a federal level are pointing to a potential ban in flavored e-cigarettes but as of now, nothing has been concluded.

More research has to be done regarding the effects long term and that takes time.

Vaping is a habit that takes time and money to maintain and the CDC believes it poses a serious health risk.

I don’t know about you, but I want you to have every opportunity to succeed.

Not get hospitalized over something completely avoidable.

If you are underage and would like to quit vaping for the sake of your health and the health of your loved ones, there is no shame in talking to a parent or trusted adult.

Tell the truth even if you have been keeping it a secret.

Whether underage or not, if you hear about trendy flavors like fruity tootie this or chocolate chip cookie that, don’t be fooled.

Mango. Mint. Crème Brulle. Grape. Lemonade. Cotton Candy. Bubble gum.

You can get these same flavors in a smoothie, candy or dessert form minus the vape.

Check out stores or local restaurants for edible alternatives that can be eaten in moderation.

If you prefer lotions, body sprays, or epically scented living spaces check out places like Bath & Body Works.

There is more than one way to get the taste or the scent of epic awesomeness without all the smoke risk.

Is vaping a trend or a tragedy?

Time will tell.

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